Thermography: The Link Behind Early Detection, Accurate Results and Positive Outcomes
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
It is arguable that today’s healthcare consumers are more informed and involved in their own treatment processes than ever before. They choose to educate themselves on the efficacy and safety of medical procedures rather than opting for the mainstream—and often invasive—route. This diligence empowers them to seek out the roots of health maintenance instead of addressing just the surface issues with a cursory prescription, a risky operation or a nebulous examination.
And that’s why the method of thermography has increased its traction in recent years. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “thermography,” prepare to hear it used more frequently within the broader scope of healthcare. This form of medical detection is having a moment—and for excellent reason. Its combination of superior technology and remarkable accuracy without the potential of harsh side-effects has made thermography an attractive health screening option for this modern wave of shrewd, discerning patients.
So in order to learn more about the finer-points of thermography itself and the widespread benefits it offers, I spoke with Yevette, RN and Certified Thermographer at Sandhill Medical Thermography, located in the Port Charlotte area. Her extensive insight and passion for educating this community are underscored in our conversation below.
Natural Awakenings: Can you describe what thermography is and how the procedure works?
Yevette Sutter: Thermography is health screening tool which uses a high-definition infrared camera that measures the surface temperature of your skin and creates a digital map of the body’s temperature patterns. The skin is constantly experiencing dynamic changes that emit from the body as subtle voltage variations, so thermography is the interface which decodes this invisible, nonverbal communication. We call this “Health Discovery,” and it’s an important part of your preventive wellness program.
Thermography is an examination of the largest, most intelligent accessible organ of the body—skin. Thermography detects inflammation, often long before you feel symptoms, or are diagnosed with an actual disease. Moreover, thermograms offer early screening and treatment assistance with cellular changes that potentially lead to cancer, inflammatory processes, neurological and vascular dysfunction, or musculoskeletal injury.
NA: Will you elaborate further on the medical conditions that thermography assists in detecting?
Sutter: Inflammation is the first sign of degenerative illnesses like arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, thyroid issues and other chronic health conditions. The early detection of the inflammation can help to prevent those health conditions from even developing in the first place.
Thermography is one of the only accurate, reliable methods to detect chronic regional pain syndrome, and it is also FDA approved as an adjunct breast health screening tool when used in conjunction with mammography and clinical breast examinations. Thermography screening can assess heart function and detect inflammation in the carotid arteries which can be a precursor to strokes and blood clots. When inflammation or occlusion of the carotid is visible, your doctor might perform additional testing.
In addition, thermography can help you detect initial signs of arthritis and differentiate between osteoarthritis and the more serious forms like rheumatoid, so effective treatment strategies can be implemented before you experience further degeneration. When it comes to back and neck pain, thermal patterns are visible as white and red lights when the affected area is scanned. This enables a quicker treatment intervention that precisely targets the correct area. That same detection applied for gum disease and certain dental issues too.
In terms of sinus congestion and headaches, heat in your forehead revealed on a thermal scan indicates when the sinus region is not functioning properly. High levels of heat in the spine can denote immune dysfunction, whereas coolness in this area is indicative of chronic fatigue, joint achiness or fibromyalgia.
Digestive imbalances such as Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome or diverticulitis can also be identified with thermography, as well as conditions like bursitis, herniated discs, muscle or ligament tears, whiplash, strokes, nerve damage, lupus and cancer, among others. The earlier these issues are found and treated, the more health restoration is possible.
NA: How are thermograms different than—and in many cases, preferable to—mammograms?
Sutter: Mammograms look at anatomical changes in the breast, as they detect masses or lumps in the breast tissue. Thermograms look at vascular changes in the breast, as they detect blood low patterns, inflammation and asymmetries. The FDA accepts the following indictors for use: “Thermography is intended as an adjunct to other clinical diagnostic procedures for quantifying and screening of differences in skin surface temperature changes.”
Thermal imaging detects the subtle physiologic changes that supplement breast pathology, whether it’s cancer, fibrocystic disease, infection or vascular disease. Thermograms benefit all women, and they can be useful for young women who want to monitor their breast health before the recommended age for screening. Your breast cancer prevention should begin as early as possible. You need to take breast health seriously—one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives.
Thermography does not emit radiation, but just takes an image. For this reason, it’s ideal as a routine screening. Thermography is approved by the FDA as an adjunct to mammography, but some people have opted just for thermography instead. That’s because mammograms emit radiation which and might actually increase the risk of cancer.
Thermography can also be useful to track the changes in a condition. Once you have a baseline thermal reading, subsequent thermograms reveal the temperature deviation over time. This can yield valuable information to gauge whether a condition is improving and whether a particular treatment is working.
NA: What are the main benefits of this early detection that people need to become more aware of?
Sutter: Thermography can detect indicators of cancer around eight to 10 years before standard cancer detection tests are able to since thermal imaging technology is equipped to perceive changes in the body at a cellular level.
With this early warning of a potential issue, you can take immediate action to address the issue with a primary care physician which allows enough time to consider all of your treatment options and perhaps even head off the problem before it becomes serious. Thermography is not painful, invasive or lengthy, and it uses no radiation or compression on the body either.
However, it’s important to note that all thermography clinics are not created equal. Sandhill Medical Thermography uses the FLIR camera which is designed to capture an image with clear precision. In fact, the TotalVision TM software utilized at our clinic was developed by DR. Carol Chandler who has been called the “Mother of Modern Day Thermography.”
These elements combine to present dynamic, high-quality images that unmatched in the field of medical infrared. I was trained in Dr. Carol Chandler’s facility, Med-Hot Thermal Imaging by Kristin Burton CNHP, CCT, who is the lead master trainer for the International Association of Medical Thermographers which trains and supports thermographers across the globe.
Moreover, we follow the latest industry standard protocols which dictate that we maintain an environmentally controlled imaging room with complete privacy, an intake interview to discuss prescreening procedures, and overseeing of proper cool-down methods. We also check in with each client by reviewing the images and written report, then we give the client two thorough copies of the images, report and a DVD disc. We make these results and resources accessible because we know that early detection is essential to a positive outcome.
Sandhill Medical Thermography is located at 24901 Sandhill Blvd., Suite 8, Port Charlotte. For more information on this innovative modality or to schedule an appointment, call 941-235-8929, email SandhillMedicalThermography@gmail.com or visit SHH.ABMP.com.
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